From Europe to Turkey, world leaders are coming together this week for a slew of global summits. There is much for these world leaders to discuss: the global financial infrastructure is now up for debate, the jihadist war continues to rage in South Asia, the Russians are locked into intractable negotiations with the Americans over the boundaries of the former Soviet sphere of influence, and the Turks are returning to their great power past.
These summits are not just about photo-ops and handshakes. Taken together, this array of diplomatic meetings constitute the greatest density of decision points in the modern world since the summits that brought about the end of the Cold War. This is a time when the true colors of nation-states come out, as each fights for their political, economic and security interests behind a thin veneer of global cooperation.
With geopolitical boundaries being redrawn across the world, STRATFOR has a responsibility to penetrate the media glitz and read through the lines of diluted joint statements and press conferences to explain to our readers the core issues at stake for each player involved. Through our extensive coverage in this week’s Global Summit series, our intent has been to do just that.
Midway through the bilateral summits, we have yet to see any major surprises deviating from our assessments. In the lead-up to the G-20 summit in London, the Americans and the Germans will be at the core of the debate over how to restructure the global financial system. The Americans, the British and the Japanese believe stimulus is the way to go to put the global economy back on track, while Germany, the economic heavyweight of Europe, prefers instead to export its way out of the recession. This is not a debate that will be resolved by the end of this summit (if at all), leaving G-20 members and the struggling economies watching from the outside with the impression that they have little choice but to fend for themselves in this severe economic environment.
The Americans do not just disagree with the Europeans on economics — in spite of Europe’s enthusiasm for U.S. President Barack Obama, the EU members at the summit made clear their unwillingness to make any meaningful contributions to the U.S. war effort in Afghanistan beyond a few aid packages. With the Western coalition in Afghanistan looking more and more like a one-man show, the Americans are branching out of their post-World War II system of alliance in search of new strategic partners. The United States has found one such partner in Turkey, where Obama will be wrapping up his visit on April 6-7. This will demonstrate to allies and adversaries alike that Washington embraces a greater Turkish role in global affairs that stretch from the Islamic World to the Russian periphery.
The summits thus far have given the Russians plenty to chew on. Russian President Dmitri Medvedev came to the G-20 ready to negotiate with Obama on a slew of issues that revolve around a core Russian imperative of consolidating power in the former Soviet periphery. A look at the joint statement and press conferences from the Obama-Medvedev meetings might leave one with the impression that the Americans and the Russians are ready to cooperate, but in reality, all they could really boast about was a commitment to restart talks on nuclear disarmament, leaving a host of outstanding critical issues in limbo. It is quite apparent that the United States has its hands full, but Obama still let the Russians know that he does not intend sit back and allow Moscow to have its way with Eurasia. The Russians now have a better idea of Obama’s boundaries in these negotiations, but their priorities have not changed; Moscow still has ways of grabbing Washington’s attention.
It has been a roller coaster ride thus far, with still more to come. Before Obama makes his way to Turkey, he still has to touch base with his NATO allies in Prague. With the Russians ready to play hardball and the balance of the Eurasian landmass still in flux, these meetings will be anything but bland. Meanwhile, STRATFOR’s team of expert analysts will be working to provide their members with the analytical context to find significant meaning from these summits. A redefinition of global systems is taking place that will carry well into the future, and STRATFOR is here to provide the historical and analytical record.
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